What We Didn’t Learn from Hiroshima and Nagasaki: North Korea’s Fifth Nuclear Weapons Test

By Paulina Anaya.

1945 was the year World War II came to an end. Japan’s surrender came at a time of tremendous mourning, just a few days after two events that were to forever mark the history of humanity: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were the two events of the war that seemed to compete with the horrors of the Holocaust. Evidently, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not enough to prove the impact of human ambition for power through any means. Today, nuclear weapons are as advanced as they’ve ever been, and escalating conflicts around the world are unsettling if there is ever the possibility of a nuclear war.

How the Atomic Bomb Came to Be

The Manhattan project was responsible for the creation of  atomic bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”, which were to be dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, hoping to bring an end to the war. However, neither of these was the world’s first nuclear explosion. A project code-named Trinity, tested on July 16th, 1945, over the New Mexico desert was the first nuclear explosion in the world. Things were just warming up…Trinity had been a test-run for Nagasaki’s “Fat Man” because scientists were not yet convinced of the plutonium bomb design. The only reason a version of “Little Boy” wasn’t tested beforehand and hasn’t been replicated ever since is because it required all of the purified Uranium-235 produced to this day – this “Little Boy” was one of a kind.

The target for “Little Man” had to be strategic, for it would be the first in history; the preference for Hiroshima was due to the fact that remained highly untouched by the various bombing raids carried out throughout the war, so the effect of the detonation could be precisely measured. Initially, President Truman had wanted an entirely military target, but after being advised that the bombing of an urban area would have a more profound effect on the Japanese, it was formalized that “Little Boy” would be dropped over Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.

At 8:15 AM (Tokyo Time), the atomic bomb exploded approximately half a kilometer above the center of Hiroshima, with a temperature estimated to have reached over one million degrees Celsius, and forming a fireball that witnesses said exceeded the sun’s brightness. “Little Boy” instantly took some 140,000 lives and thousands more in the following months because of the radiation’s aftereffects. In less than a second, the city had been incinerated to ashes; everything within a seven kilometer radius had been wiped out.


16 hours later, President Truman’s public announcement in Washington D.C. was the following, “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima. It is an atomic bomb. We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”. Just like that, three days later on August 9th, “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki, killing about 65,000 people. Up until then, Japan was in disbelief of America’s ability to develop an atomic bomb. Not wanting any more suffering brought upon the “peoples of this world”, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender on August 15th. The war may have been over, but at what cost?

The United Nations, North Korea’s Fifth Nuclear Test and Its Implications

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The United Nations (UN) was founded after the war in 1945 to promote international co-operations among countries and prevent events with magnitudes like that of World War II.  In its first resolution, the UN General Assembly called for the elimination of atomic weapons on January 26th, 1946, and set up a commission to deal with the forthcoming problems of atomic weapons now that they had been discovered. The UN has sought universal nuclear disarmament for 70 years and counting…

It’s 2016 and North Korea has conducted its fifth nuclear test, claiming it its strongest to date. The country insists it has carried out five successful nuclear tests: in 2006, 2009, 2013, and January and September of this year. The latter’s yield was of 10 to 30 kilo tonnes, which, if confirmed, would indeed make it its biggest nuclear test. North Korea’s nuclear program has neighboring countries worried, with tension among them escalating. Its prolific uranium ore reserves also prove to be unsettling for the international community as failure dominates the ring when it comes to holding negotiations with North Korea.

Earlier this year, South Korea challenged North Korea’s UN membership for its continuous violations of Security Council resolutions, backing its position by referring to 1991, the year North Korea entered the UN and agreed to the UN Charter. During an emergency meeting, the UN Security Council agreed to tighten sanctions on North Korea for breaching UN regulations… once again. Nevertheless, the country has seen sanctions imposed on itself for years yet continues to manage and develop nuclear research and development. Clearly, something is wrong with these “sanctions”. The People’s Republic of China is North Korea’s only ally, but after January’s nuclear test, even China agreed to impose tougher sanctions. However, China’s sanctions come with reservations, for it has made it clear that it does not want the collapse of Pyongyang if it leads to a power vacuum only to be filled by the U.S. or another world power; ultimately, it fears a second Cold War.

The international community knows that if North Korea were to cut all communication with China it would be “left out in the dark” regarding North Korea. China is particularly interested in maintaining relations with North Korea because of their proximity, and if things were to get ugly, North Korea would not make a pretty enemy. It appears the world has had too much patience for North Korea, and in times of increasing violence just how much are we willing to tolerate? So far, North Korea’s nuclear program has generally been underestimated, and deteriorating relations with the rest of the world put all of us in danger. What if North Korea does have the strong nuclear development it claims? Then again, aren’t we at the mercy of any country in possession of nuclear weapons?


The United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, and North Korea, together possess roughly 15,500 nuclear warheads. With the U.S. and Russia being proprietors of over 90% of them, North Korea is not the only country we should be looking out for.


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